Durrie approaches impact investing as a full-time financial career. He studies the subject in executive courses, builds an international network of contacts and then experiments with small investments until he’s ready to increase his allocations.
Durrie Hassan has been preparing himself as an investor for three years. He has taken courses, connected with other next generation investors and entrepreneurs and experimented with different strategies.
“I’m a young next generation asset owner, and there’s a lot for me to learn from the older generation and also from other young leaders and entrepreneurs who are starting to lead the way.”
Durrie, 33, grew up in Malaysia and went on to study business management at the University of Surrey in England. He returned to Malaysia to work in the family real estate business, and the family office eventually expanded into technology investments in Greater China, bringing Durrie to Hong Kong in 2013.
The Hassan family has always been active in philanthropy, and Durrie at one point considered supplementing the family’s philanthropic work with his own foundation. Then he began learning about sustainable finance and decided impact investing was a better route for him.
“We will always need philanthropy, and it will always be there, but there are also many challenges being tackled by companies that need to be financially sustainable, that must provide scalable solutions. As an asset owner I saw that I could help grow these companies.”
Durrie founded Visible Mission Ventures three years ago, making it the sustainable finance arm of his family office. Developing his skills as an impact investor and building his portfolio has become his full time job.
A Strategic Approach
There are few curriculums tailored specifically for impact investing, so Durrie mixes and matches subjects that he knows will be useful and that interest him, such as those related to education technology, change management, climate solutions and asset management. Durrie took executive courses at Oxford and Harvard among other universities, where he has met like-minded people, many of whom are also deploying their own capital. Those experiences have taught him how to value different types of companies and scale their services and products, and he shares this new-found knowledge by serving on boards and offering management advice.
Durrie has made modest, diverse investments and watched what has worked and what hasn’t. Now he is shifting to the next stage of his investment journey by increasing his asset allocations.
A common complaint among Asian impact investors is that it is hard to find sizeable direct investment opportunities in the social enterprise space. Durrie recently made an extended visit to London to learn more about the European impact investing sector and access the larger deals available there.
Durrie manages two portfolios; one that makes direct, private equity investments, the other that is more passive, using investment advisors and managers to invest in more liquid instruments such as bonds and listed equities, but maintaining a sustainable finance strategy. The more predictable returns of the passive portfolio — which he expects to generate returns that are competitive with mainstream investments — help to fund his less predictable impact investing projects.
“The direct investment is the more attractive side of the business, because I often work in developing countries on specific, innovative projects. It takes me all around the globe, to different sectors where I’ve joined boards of directors, allowing me to advise some companies and see where they can replicate and scale what they are doing.”
Durrie’s two favourite investment areas are climate solutions and education technology, and in particular he searches for ideas and business models that are scalable.
“Our existing models of education are centuries old and are not adapted to our current job climate, which is constantly evolving, and technology helps us educate people and give them more applicable skills and knowledge.”
The passive side of Durrie’s investments generates more predictable returns than his direct investments, and it also contributes to a slowly growing sustainable finance industry.
“Private banks and wealth managers are very aware of the next generation of asset owners and that many of us are interested in doing good, so they are getting into more responsible and impactful investing. They need to know there is demand and support for the market.”
Durrie estimates that between 10 and 15 percent of the family’s assets outside their core real estate and technology business have been invested sustainably.
“We’re still structuring the family office and aligning our sustainable investment strategy, and we have yet to align our core business, so that figure should rise with time.”
Durrie is an active hiker, runner and water sports enthusiast, activities that help him build his network an impact investor.
“I’ve met co-investors, entrepreneurs and other influential and creative thinkers on hikes as well as while volunteering. Doing things that matter to you increases the likelihood that you will meet people you want to work with.”
Durrie also volunteers his professional skills as a member of the Global Shapers Community in Hong Kong, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, and a community that has played an important role in his development as an investor. He is also a board member of Mongolia Needs You, which provides mentoring for Mongolian youth, and serves as a vice-president of UBS 20/20 Social Impact Leaders Group.
For others just starting out on their sustainable finance journey, Durrie cited the RS Group’s impact report as one of his inspirations, applauding the transparency and detail of the report, and recommends Julia Balandina Jaquier’s book Catalysing Wealth for Change. Durrie also names Charly Kleissner, the founder of Toniic, as an influence on his journey.
“Charly has helped me understand the theory of change and how a family office or pool of capital can be invested more effectively.”
Family elders are often resistant to change and more innovative investment strategies, but Durrie’s family has been supportive. Durrie, who has four younger siblings, is pleased to see that two of them have also begun showing an interest in impact investing.
“My parents always made a point of teaching us that the world is not equal, and you need to be aware of that and what you can do to help.”